Fuel Up and Chill Out For Better Recovery

June 18, 2016

Pre-workout supplements are all the rage these days and while I intend to save my opinion on that for another blog post, I do want to make a point: way too many people are concerned with how they’re going to make it through their workouts, while far too few are concerned with how to properly recover from them. While both pre- and post-workout nutrition and regiment are important, the latter shouldn’t be the red-headed step-child of the two. A proper pre-workout routine will help fuel the upcoming training session. A proper post-workout routine will help you recover from the training session, aid in long term muscle growth and help to fuel future training sessions.

Since this is a blog post and not a novel, I’m going to give you the Cliff’s Notes version. Let’s hope this is more effective in helping you enhance your recovery than Cliff was at helping me pass my 10th grade English Lit exam on “Wuthering Heights”…

Fuel Up: Basic Post-Workout Nutrition

There are 2 primary objectives to accomplish with post-workout nutrition: Replenish glycogen stores and repair damaged muscle tissue. Considering those objectives, there are 3 basic questions that should be asked when considering post-workout nutrition: When? What? How much? I want to acknowledge that you can find multiple answers to all three questions, if you so desire. Having said that, I’m giving you what I believe to be a very sensible, balanced approach to each.

When? – Your body is most receptive to nutrients within 2 hours of exercise. I recommend within an hour of training, if possible.

What? – Simply put, you need carbs to replenish the glycogen stores and protein to help repair your damaged muscle tissue. Your carb choices should be fast-absorbing, higher-glycemic carbs. A few examples of higher-glycemic carbs are sports drinks, rice cakes, bananas, white potatoes. Whey protein, eggs and egg whites are the most easily digested sources of protein. Although they digest a little more slowly, chicken, beef and fish are all good post-workout protein choices as well.

How Much? – For starters, shoot for a 2:1 carb to protein ratio. Relative to amount, each person has different macronutrient needs. So I’ll generalize a bit. Take in somewhere between 10-30 gms of protein and 20-60 gms of carbs, depending on the intensity of the workout and your caloric needs. In the event that you’re training for endurance events (marathon, spartan race, etc.) you may want to change your ratio to 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein.

Keep in mind that you should be using all of this information as a guide to get you going in the right direction. Play around a bit with your timing, food portions, and food choices to see what works best for you.

Chill Out

Clark Griswold walks poolside with an unnamed blond, explaining, “My creedo is…Go for it…You only go around this crazy merry-go-round once…”. I can’t think about cold water without picturing Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation, jumping into the pool with Christie Brinkley, bursting out of the water and screaming, “F@*! COOOOOLLLLLDDDD!”. While taking a chilly dip with an attractive stranger may not be the best thing for your relationship, it does have a slew of benefits, including aiding in recovery.

Following intense training sessions, your muscles and joints can be achy and inflamed. Jumping in a cold shower or bath can help to reduce the inflammation and also relieve delayed-onset muscle soreness. Some of the many other benefits include improved circulation, stress relief, and weight loss support.

You might also consider taking a page out of 007’s book and trying the James Bond or Scottish shower. Start your shower with hot water and finish with a few minutes of cold. Alternating between the hot and cold is also known as contrast therapy. According to Dr. Jody Stanislaw, a naturopathic doctor, it has multiple benefits that include relief of muscle tension, strengthening of the immune system and detoxification. Once you step out of the shower, you’ll be cool, calm, and collected, ready to kick ass and take names like the suave MI6 agent that you are. Oh, and that martini…Shaken. Not stirred.

Here are a few things to consider before you start experimenting:

When you’re ready to enter the cold water, take deep, diaphragmatic breaths to keep you calm. Hyperventilating isn’t going to help.

Consider gradually reducing the temperature of the water over several showering sessions. If you have a heart condition, please consult your physician before experimenting with this. Exposure to intense cold can lead to vasoconstriction, a narrowing of the arteries, and could cause cardiac arrest.

Until next time, be cool.